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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Two Daughters Are More Than Woman Wants to Handle

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating "Charlie" for almost a year. We both have children from previous relationships. He has recently been talking about marriage, but as much as I care for him, I am reluctant.

When my daughter, "Mia," was in kindergarten, she was diagnosed with ADHD. I went through some rough times. It took all I had to raise her and her younger brother. Mia is now 13 and finally starting to overcome her ADHD issues.

The problem is Charlie's daughter (age 8) has ADHD far worse than Mia's was, and his other daughter (age 6) has an eating disorder.

Charlie divorced his wife just before we began dating, and he became a single parent. He has never parented alone. His wife was the primary caregiver to both girls.

Charlie does take the advice I offer and has tried to change his disciplinary habits, but only when I say something. And he doesn't take his younger daughter's disorder seriously.

I would like to stay with him, but -- and this is going to sound awful -- I don't want to raise his high-maintenance kids. I feel I have served my time as a parent to a child with special needs. Caring for his changes all the rules I have established for my own children. They're beginning to wonder why his daughters are treated more leniently and, "If I had done that, you'd have punished me" is something I hear all the time. -- BURNED-OUT MOM IN TEXAS

DEAR BURNED OUT: Your signature says it all. Have you heard the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? You and Charlie have a wonderful relationship right now. You can enjoy him and help him out when he needs it, and you're still free to absent yourself when his girls become too much for you.

Marriage is a package deal. If you combine households feeling the way you do, it would be unfair to yourself, to Charlie and all four of the children. I advise against it.

P.S. If you haven't already mentioned to Charlie that both his daughters need to be under a doctor's care, I urge you to do it.